Fans fury over EIHL roster size

EIHL Chairman Tony Smith has hailed the new television partnership with Premier Sports (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Fans of ice hockey have hit out after the long rumoured Elite League roster size was finally made public.

Elite League chairman Tony Smith has come under fire for his explanation on why the league have opted to go with 14 imports and only five Brits on any match night – a reduction of homegrown talent in previous years.

And, just weeks after GB star Liam Kirk signed an entry level contract with NHL side Arizona Coyotes, fans have been venting their spleen on social media.

In an interview with Sheffield Star, Smith sought to explain the stance of the 10-team league, explaining clubs are having to play it cautious as they start to continue after the Covid pandemic.

“We have looked at various ways to cut costs this season while maintaining and improving standards,” he said. 

“It’s a common sense thing – we don’t know if (the aftermath of ) Covid is going to bring less crowds, less sponsorship, although all the signals so far are that things are looking good.

Robert Lachowicz has gone to Guildford after Nottingham Panthers couldn’t make room for him as per the new roster size rules (PHOTO: Panthers Images)

“I think we are going to be okay but we are being a little bit cautious with how many players we have on the roster. 

“But why fewer Brits overall on EIHL rosters, when younger ones are further down the pay scale?

“Yes, some of the Brits earn little, but only until they get to the point where they are starting to make a name for themselves.

“One or two are coming through like Josh Waller and Sam Jones. Young Brits are always on the radar and once we think they are going to make the grade we are very quick to snap them up. So why not 12 imports and seven Brits on EIHL line-ups, for example?

“It is down to quality. I am the first to advocate that we want quality on the ice, we were at 10 and 10 (import-Brit ratio) when I first joined the League in 2011.

“You bring me the crowds and I will bring you the Brits! But right now they don’t fill Arenas and I’d be the first to say I hope it changes, I hope the standard improves.”

Liam Kirk signed an entry level contract with Arizona Coyotes just a few weeks ago (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

His comments have caused anger among fans, who have heavily criticised the league and Smith for the new rule, with some accusing the EIHL of sending the wrong message for any up and coming players.

On Twitter, Jon Rowson said: “Absolutely shocking message to send, not only off the back of Team GBs achievements of the past four years, but how many junior players will be put off from giving pro hockey a go if this is the message?”

“Short term thinking on the EIHL’s part. What happens in 2-3 years time when many of the seasoned EIHL brits have retired? More imports and back to the superleague days?,” Chris Golley added.

Former Elite League media officer Chris Ellis, who now works with Ice Hockey UK, didn’t hold back on his criticism either, citing one top Brit as an example of the new rule.

“If you’re good enough to play against Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic in the World Championship, you are more than good enough to play in the EIHL,” he said.

“I cannot believe Matthew Myers does not have an EIHL job right now. This is down to the reduction in places for British players. I understand the EIHL has to cut its costs because of the pandemic but I would like to have seen 12 imports and seven British players.”

Matthew Myers may not have an Elite League berth this season (PHOTO: David Williams)

Andy Dixon also said: “The league have no pulse on what the fans want or what hockey needs either by the sounds of it. 

“The breathtaking idiocy of this is a stretch even for the EIHL. An absolute travesty for the sport in this country. What happened to age old limiting imports because they’re expensive?”

While it’s undoubtedly a talking point, there were some who agree with the Elite League’s stance for this season, offering that top end Brits cost more than lower level imports.

“Brits cost more than imports, we have wanted a better and more professional league for decades now we have it and unfortunately people would vote with their feet and stop coming to as many games if the standard on the ice slipped,” Jack Dale said.

“Been saying this for a while and totally get the reasons behind it. The Elite League is not a development league,” Matt Bonninger added.

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with tne majority of UK fans that it is disgusting going with only 5 brits in a British playing country and what incentive to up and coming British players if they cant play top flight EIHL games to then go onto play for their country, you will end up getting so so players from lower league playing for GB…. as has been in the press, no room in the EIHL for Matthew Myers which is an huge loss for the EIHL as a whole, my team Panthers losing a long time 14 year loyal local talent in Rob Lachowicz due to the team not having room for him and other Brits losing their place and moving to lower leagues when good enough to play for their country, how is this improving British Ice Hockey, we are going backwards, actually getting worse, back in the day when I started watching Panthers in 1982, 3 imports and the rest Brits, now the brits are being squeezed out of their teams and the Elite League due to crazy decisions from those in charge of what they feel is best for the league and ice hockey in this country, I dont think I am alone in thinking you guys have messed up big time and spoiled ice hockey in the UK because it is a business and not a sport…
    I will still support my team but disgusted with how the governing body is running this league. We have lost good players due to your british player cuts…. I agree, it would be better with 7 brits and 12 imports… get your heads sorted out and make the right decision for the league and British ice hockey…

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